Archive for Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Illustrator brings books to life

November 22, 2000

Tonganoxie students are now all-the-wiser about the children's book publishing industry.

Last week, children's book illustrator Brad Sneed spoke to elementary students and high school art students about creating drawings for children's picture books.

Sneed, who has had one book published that he wrote and illustrated, said he's primarily an illustrator.

Now that he has a 10-year history in the publishing business, Sneed, a 1999 University of Kansas graduate, said publishing houses contact him. Once he gets words to the story, he makes thumbnail sketches to use for ideas for his art.

Next, he makes more detailed drawings and puts together what he calls a "dummy book" where he pastes the copy and colored illustrations onto pages.

"When I finish a dummy book, I think it's perfect," Sneed said. "Then I send it to the publisher."

Sometimes the publishers make suggestions for changes. The process for illustrating one children's book can take about six months, he said.

Sneed, who grew up near Newton, is often called upon to illustrate books that have a rural theme.

A book that he read to children last week, "The Bravest of Us All," which he illustrated, includes paintings depicting central Kansas themes, such as sandburs, sandhill plum bushes, swimming in a horse tank, chickens in the hen house, a root cellar and a tornado.

His colorful drawings are reminiscent of works by American artists John Stuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. Sneed said he uses art styles typical of these artists, as well as Georgia O'Keefe.

"I like the way that they filtered real life through their own sensibilities," Sneed said.

In the 10 years since his first illustrations were used in a children's book, "Grampa's Song," his artistic style has basically remained the same.

"I have not made a conscious effort to change," he said. "But I think I have gotten better technically, such as when it comes to handling the water color medium."

Sneed, who lives in Prairie Village with his wife, Dena, and daughter, Emily, said he illustrates full time. Each year, he schedules 12 to 15 speaking engagements at schools.

"I love to do school visits," Sneed said. "I get to help inspire kids in writing and drawing. Besides, it gets me out of the house my job could be a lonely profession."

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